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WH Smith eyes airport stores for gadget chain after Dixon Carphone exit

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Pedestrians wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, walk past a WH Smith store in London on August 5, 2020, following the announcement the retailer could cut 1500 jobs, and close up to 14 stores. - WH Smith said on Wednesday that it is planning to cut up to 1,500 jobs, due to the slow recovery from the COVID-19 lockdown. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
WH Smith's travel division accounted for two thirds of profits, but it posted a £31m loss for the six months to February. Sales at the company declined 65% to £150m. Photo: Tolga Akmen / AFP via Getty

WH Smith (SMWH.L) is considering moving its new gadget chain InMotion to the airport stores left behind by Dixon Carphone (DC.L). 

The retailers chief executive, Carl Cowling, who struck a bullish tone despite the COVID crisis, said its rival’s exit was "another opportunity" for WH Smith. 

WH Smith is already in "talks with landlords to bring InMotion to more stores” he added. 

InMotion already has a branch at Leeds Bradford Airport.

The high street stationery retailer announced last week it would borrow £325m ($450m) to open another 100 stores at airports and train stations on hopes of a recovery in public transport and the travel sector. 

"We’re really confident about the future of our travel business," the CEO said. 

WH Smith bought InMotion for £155m in 2018 as part of its US expansion push, with 1,168 travel shops globally. It also has 561 high street shops and employs 14,000 staff.

WH Smith's travel division accounted for two thirds of profits, but it posted a £31m loss for the six months to February. Sales at the company declined 65% to £150m.

READ MORE: Topshop's empty Oxford Street premises on sale for £420m

In comparison, announced the same week that it was shuttering 35 of its travel shops after the coronavirus pandemic took its toll. The move puts 400 jobs at risk.

The company blamed the Treasury for axing VAT relief. 

Dixon's said it made the "difficult decision" as it became evident that a steady rebound in passenger numbers was unlikely to offset the loss of duty-free shopping. 

The travel armaccounted for £20m of the firm's profits.

The coronavirus pandemic has hammered the travel sector and plunged passengers numbers to levels to decades lows. 

In 2020, passenger numbers at UK airports fell to levels not seen since 1985, down 75.2% with only 73.8 million passengers reported, most of which travelled in the first three months of the year. This was compared to 296.8 million passengers in 2019. 

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